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Covid-19 shows united action is needed for more robust international health architecture

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Immunisation is a global public good and we will need to be able to develop, manufacture and deploy vaccines as quickly as possible. At a time when Covid-19 has exploited our weaknesses and divisions, we must seize this opportunity and come together as a global community for peaceful cooperation that extends beyond this crisis. AFP

Covid-19 shows united action is needed for more robust international health architecture

The Covid-19 pandemic is the biggest challenge to the global community since the 1940s. At that time, following the devastation of two world wars, political leaders came together to forge the multilateral system.

The aims were clear: to bring countries together, to dispel the temptations of isolationism and nationalism, and to address the challenges that could only be achieved together in the spirit of solidarity and cooperation, namely peace, prosperity, health and security.

Today, we hold the same hope that, as we fight to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic together, we can build a more robust international health architecture that will protect future generations. There will be other pandemics and other major health emergencies. No single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone.

The question is not if, but when. Together, we must be better prepared to predict, prevent, detect, assess and effectively respond to pandemics in a highly coordinated fashion. The Covid-19 pandemic has been a stark and painful reminder that nobody is safe until everyone is safe.

We are, therefore, committed to ensuring universal and equitable access to safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines, medicines and diagnostics for this and future pandemics. Immunisation is a global public good and we will need to be able to develop, manufacture and deploy vaccines as quickly as possible.

This is why the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) was set up in order to promote equal access to tests, treatments and vaccines and support health systems across the globe. ACT-A has delivered on many aspects, but equitable access is not achieved yet. There is more we can do to promote global access.

To that end, we believe that nations should work together towards a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response.

Such a renewed collective commitment would be a milestone in stepping up pandemic preparedness at the highest political level. It would be rooted in the constitution of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in support of the principle of health for all, drawing in other relevant organisations key to this endeavour. Existing global health instruments, especially the International Health Regulations, would underpin such a treaty, ensuring a firm and tested foundation on which we can build and improve.

The main goal of this treaty would be to foster an all-of-government and all-of-society approach, strengthening national, regional and global capacities and resilience to future pandemics. This includes greatly enhancing international cooperation to improve, for example, alert systems, data sharing, research and local, regional and global production and distribution of medical and public health countermeasures, such as vaccines, medicines, diagnostics and personal protective equipment.

It would also include recognition of a “one health” approach that connects the health of humans, animals and our planet. And such a treaty should lead to more mutual accountability and shared responsibility, transparency and cooperation within the international system and with its rules and norms.

To achieve this, we will work with heads of state and governments globally as well as all stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector. We are convinced that it is our responsibility, as leaders of nations and international institutions, to ensure that the world learns the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic.

At a time when Covid-19 has exploited our weaknesses and divisions, we must seize this opportunity and come together as a global community for peaceful cooperation that extends beyond this crisis. Building our capacities and systems to do this will take time and require a sustained political, financial and societal commitment over many years.

Our solidarity in ensuring that the world is better prepared will be our legacy that protects our children and grandchildren and minimises the impact of future pandemics on our economies and our societies. Pandemic preparedness needs global leadership for a global health system fit for this millennium. To make this commitment a reality, we must be guided by solidarity, fairness, transparency, inclusiveness and equity.

Joko Widodo is president of Indonesia and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is director-general of the World Health Organisation.

This article was also signed by Fiji Prime Minister J V Bainimarama; Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Luis Santos da Costa; Romanian President Klaus Iohannis; British Prime Minister Boris Johnson; Rwandan President Paul Kagame; Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta; French President Emmanuel Macron; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; European Council president Charles Michel; Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis; South Korean President Moon Jae-in; Chilean President Sebastian Pinera; Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada; Albania Prime Minister Edi Rama; South African President Cyril Ramaphosa; Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley; Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte; Tunisian President Kais Saied; Senegalese President Macky Sall; Spannish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez; Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg; Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic; and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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